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Governance can be strengthened by leveraging professionals' expertise

By Paul Yeung | China Daily Asia | Updated: 2022-06-20 08:55
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A large screen on the roof of a building scrolls through subtitles of celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland in Hong Kong, June 17, 2022. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

Now that the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong" is in place to keep the subversives at bay and ensure Hong Kong's stability, the city's future success will hinge on whether John Lee Ka-chiu's governance team can significantly improve its governance capabilities by recruiting enough professionals and leverage their expertise, aside from filling the new administration's top echelon with high-caliber officials.

On May 13, the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference held its 62nd biweekly consultation session. The meeting, which was presided over by Wang Yang, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, focused on how to strengthen the capability for expanding the ranks of patriots in the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions. This reflects that cultivating talent for both SARs and enhancing their governance are now on the agenda of national governance.

Nurturing talent for governance is not only a matter of national importance but also a consensus of the Hong Kong community. Confronting an increasingly complex international political landscape as well as a slew of deep-seated domestic problems, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government can no longer maintain its conservative or positive noninterventionism tradition; it has to be more proactive in tackling the major social issues. This shift in governance style demands much stronger governance capability. Without a big boost to the quality and capacity of the governance echelon, the results-oriented governance philosophy will remain a pep talk. Having witnessed the large-scale social unrest over the past few years, Hong Kong society in general has come to realize that we are all in the same boat and share the same destiny regardless of our political leanings. The captain who steers the boat and the capability of the crew are matters of concern for all member of the community now.

Governance performance or quality correlates with the caliber of its administrators. We need to distinguish between administrators and political talent. Political talent is people who play a political role, like members of the traditional pro-establishment camp. Administrators, on the other hand, refers to executives playing administrative roles in the administrative framework, and they perform different administrative functions that should transcend politics. In a broader sense, administrators include not only appointed officials, legislators and members of political parties, but also civil servants, consultative bodies, public institutions, communal societies, think tanks, etc. To cultivate talent for governance in these areas, we must recruit and unite elites from all social strata.

Professionals are an elite force that we cannot afford to overlook in our endeavor to nurture governance talent. They include experts practicing law, accounting, architecture, engineering, surveying, medical care, social work, education, scientific research, etc. In November 2018, President Xi Jinping specifically mentioned the important role of Hong Kong's professionals in national development at an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the country's reform and opening-up. For instance, they took the lead in introducing international norms, industry best practices and advisory services that are conducive to the restructuring of mainland enterprises and the reform of the land-use system on the Chinese mainland. Thus, the central government highly recognizes the positive role of professionals in the development of the country.

Hong Kong's professionals, most of whom are born, raised, and have become accomplished people here, should be more than happy to play a part in the administration of Hong Kong, if they are given a chance. Systemic efforts should be made to attract professionals to take part in the governance of the SAR. These should include allowing them to go through training and internship programs that will equip them with the necessary skills required of administrators. With regard to the training of professionals for administrative roles, we can draw useful references from the Chinese Academy of Governance, the Civil Service College Singapore, and the Harvard Kennedy School to tailor-make and promote governance talent training programs for Hong Kong's professionals. And internships for the future professionals-cum-administrators can be provided by consultative bodies, public institutions, politically appointed officials, etc. They will go through the process of learning by doing, and learn how to work with civil servants, politicians and other stakeholders.

The author is senior research officer of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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